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Gas customers could see bill increase

With the recent cold snap engulfing southern Ohio, Columbia Gas is warning people they could see higher than normal bills this month.

“Gas prices for January are down about 28 percent from last year, so obviously that is great for customers” said Dave Rau, communications manager for Columbia Gas of Ohio. “The problem is this winter, especially the last few weeks, have been much colder than normal” and that has lead to people using more natural gas to keep their homes and businesses warm.

Rau said that the winters have been warmer for the past couple of years and people have gotten use to bills that are less than what they would be in an average winter.

“So we are calculating that in the period between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15, we are forecasting a little bit, but that 30-day period is going to be about 24 percent colder than normal,” he said. “Customers will be using quite a bit more gas and that means their bills will be a little higher.”

The company estimates that customers can expect to see, on average, an increase of about $20 in their January bill. However, every customer is different, and those customers who use more gas could see a larger increase in their bill.

“We want people to know, because we don’t want customers to be surprised when they open their bill and see it is higher,” Rau said. “We want them to understand this is coming and there are some things they can do today to prepare for it.”

The company says customers can take the following steps now to ensure comfort during the cold snap:

• Set your thermostat to 68 degrees. When you’re not home, drop it to 55 degrees. Or install a programmable thermostat to automatically lower your home’s temperature at night and when you are away.

• Turn your water heater temperature down to 120 degrees.

• Install blanket insulation on older water heaters.

• Seal air leaks where you feel cold drafts.

• Replace older appliances or leaky windows with new models that carry the ENERGY STAR label.

Columbia Gas reminds customers that energy efficiency and assistance programs are available to manage winter costs.

“If you think that you are going to have trouble paying your bill, call us right away,” Rau said. “Call us before there is a disconnect notice, that’s when we have the most options.

There are so many options for all customers and for income-qualified, there are many programs to help them retain their services. Don’t wait until you receive a cut off notice.”

Customers struggling to pay their home heating costs should contact Columbia Gas at 1-800-344-4077 for information on payment assistance programs. Some programs to help  customers’ needs include:

• Payment Plans – Plans to help make home energy costs more manageable.

• Winter Reconnect Order – A program to have service restored or maintained with a payment of $175 plus a small reconnection fee.

• Low-income energy assistance programs available through local community action agencies or Salvation Army chapters.

• Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP Plus) – Option for households at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guideline.

Columbia Gas offers a number of energy efficiency programs at http://www.columbiagasohio.com/SavingMatters.

For more information on managing the cold temperatures, visit ColumbiaGasOhio.com.